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It's only rock'n'roll but I like it!,
This review is from: The London American EP Collection (Audio CD)
EP's were always a bit of an oddity back in the days of pink & black. Somewhere between an LP and a single and very often presenting an existential problem, like, if you bought an EP possibly to add to singles you'd already purchased of an artist, weren't the tracks almost inevitably going to turn up again on an LP thus giving you a major financial dilemma regarding the spending of pocket money? But they could sometimes be the only way to pick up obscure stuff that only found its way onto album donkey's years later - I still treasure a Chuck & Bo set from, I think, `63.
I should preface further remarks on this set by saying that I haven't forked out the pennies yet but I'm mighty tempted!
EP's could vary in content from a couple of hit singles and their flips, to one hit number plus much lesser known stuff, to almost wilfully obscure material. That variation has been captured beautifully by One Day with this set. Very pleasingly they have opted to give complete versions of EP's rather than merely sample some of the tracks. And while I haven't done an exhaustive check, a few look-ups do suggest that One Day haven't cheated; these tracks do reflect the actual EP's. And their overall selection does have just the variation that I commented upon in my first sentence of this para.
The Duane Eddy, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and Everly Brothers selections all come in the first grouping. Absolute classic tracks all of them which no self respecting rock'n'roll fan should be without. Of the slightly obscure flips present, the Ev's early country rock masterpiece, "I wonder if I care as much" and Eddy's moody "The Walker" should be very pleasant surprises to someone who hasn't dug into these artists before.
At the other extreme we have early Atlantic star Ruth Brown from a 1953/54 timeframe when she was monopolising the US R&B Chart but hardly anyone white had heard of her, the ground breaking Billy Ward and the Dominoes from later in the fifties and indeed, after their two big name vocalists, Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson had left - these were US hits which didn't get heard much outside the States, and the phenomenally obscure white rockabilly artist Sanford Clark, known only for "The Fool" whose records were much sought after until Bear Family issued their excellent compilation (under that name) - and I'd add that the tracks here are on that comp. Nice work from Al Casey on guitar on these Lee Hazelwood produced efforts.
In between we have big names like Johnny Cash with his all-time classic "I walk the line" plus, among the lesser known numbers, the nearly as good, "Home of the Blues". We have Ricky Nelson with a couple of very cool rockabilly numbers and a smooth ballad. We have Bill Haley from the days before he became a household name (and repetitive with it) - a couple of the numbers here are virtually western swing. We have Bobby Darin with his breakthrough "Splish Splash" but how many of you have heard the others here? And we have four storming jump blues crackers from Joe Turner - Joe was borderline rock'n'roll / R&B in the mid fifties but made great records however you classify them. We have four of Roy Orbison's best rockabilly tracks from the Sun days. These same tracks have been re-released so many times that anyone who's at all into rockabilly will be aware of them now but at the time this EP was issued Orby was a complete unknown in the UK and near complete unknown in the US. And I shouldn't ignore the oldest rocker of them all, the Fat Man himself who gets to lead off the set. His four are not likely to be in everyone's collection - I particularly like the rhumba beat of "Don't you hear me calling you".
And to remind us that, what we were to term Chicago R&B, the music that inspired the Stones and many other Brit Blues and R&B bands, existed in parallel to the rock'n'roll world we were aware of but we weren't to get to hear it until it until the music was "rediscovered", we have tracks from several of the Chess greats. Hence we have crackling electric blues from the great Wolf, absolute stormers from the under-estimated Little Walter - did he make any bad tracks? - and from Chuck - he's the one exception of course who really did break through to the pop world - and the aforementioned Diddley man. All fabulous stuff. If you've never heard Chuck's "Together we'll aways be" before, then I warn you, this is a real weirdie, a kind of ballad with tremolo guitar. Must be his most atypical track.
Most, maybe all, of this material is from the fifties, the period when invention in music was happening all over the USA, particularly on those struggling indie labels who were willing to take the risks while the majors played it safe. This was the music that was to heavily influence the generation of bands who were to hit the scene in the sixties, the Beatles, the Stones, Yardbirds, Animals etc. London American captured loads of this marvellous stuff and One Day have given us a goodly dollop of it in this set.
Much of the music here can broadly be lumped together as rock'n'roll and as a closing comment, I would just namecheck the Stones, yet again, with "It's only rock'n'roll but I like it!"
Go out and buy. Who knows, maybe One Day will give us another EP set. There were quite a few more released.